Seize the opportunities as they come

Seize the opportunities as they come

(File Photo)

Two local developments caught our eye this week. The first, and perhaps most pressing, is Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s decision to forgo appealing a Norfolk judge’s ruling that the Opportunity Educational Institution is unconstitutional.

That state agency, as regular readers will recall, was created to take over failing public schools. Richmond’s list included Jefferson Houston, an elementary school that has long struggled to meet state and federal academic benchmarks.

The Times advocated for a state takeover of Jefferson Houston just over a year ago. It was not an easy decision, but one arrived at after seeing the many unsuccessful attempts to turn the school around in recent years.

More than a few readers objected to took our stance, which flew in the face of the Alexandria School Board’s position regarding the institution. We stand by it, but the ball is in the other court now.

McAuliffe’s decision to let the judge’s ruling stand, which determined the legislation co-opted powers that should be left to local authorities, leaves the state agency dead in the water. So the onus is on members of the school board and the community at large. Jefferson Houston is in your hands.

What taxpayers need now, given the multimillion-dollar facility going up at the site, is a clear path ahead. We need benchmarks and, more importantly, consequences if they are not met.

We are not denying the amount of work or effort previously expended on correcting Jefferson-Houston. We never have.

However, the path ahead requires accountability as much as it requires new ideas. We have a new leadership team, a new building and a newly attained baccalaureate status. If improvement isn’t seen within the next two to three years, a more drastic — locally led — change is needed.

Charter school has long been a dirty phrase in Alexandria, but perhaps that needs changing as well in the coming years.

In more uplifting local news, we learned this week that friends of Four Mile Run Park have partnered with City Hall and an Internet-based crowdfunding Web site to potentially fund needed improvements. Crowdfunding allows activists to raise money for specific projects by harnessing the generosity of the web’s denizens.

Crowdfunding sites usually are reserved for private and for-profit endeavors. The team behind the Old Town Theater, for example, turned to one such website to kick start efforts to revitalize the former venue.

If this undertaking, which would see new 13 new trees planted in the Arlandria park, succeeds, we encourage other local activists to take note.

Too often, we hear complaints of how City Hall is failing to meet expectations. This new option gives residents the opportunity to pitch in where and how they see fit.

We encourage our neighbors to take advantage of both opportunities. Jefferson-Houston, Four Mile Run Park and a host of other initiatives depend upon you.